Saturday, May 29, 2004

rockets and terrorism

I was talking with my sister in law today. She's a rocketeer. She has a pretty good time with it. She and her husband were just on the front page of the Living section of the Oregonian, and it isn't the first time she's made the paper about rockets. They were suspected of terrorism a year or so ago, in the wilds of middle Oregon, out in the desert near Bend. They sell rocket motors for fellow enthusiasts, and the ATF wasn't wild about the competition, I guess. I really don't know much about it: the ATF, their concerns, or Jane's rockets, or anything else, really.... but there they were, in the paper again. Apparently since the ATF became concerned, all kinds of interest in rocketeering has been generated. Kind of a draw for yuppie civil near-disobedience. They probably aren't really even yuppies... too young. But never the less, the disobedience is appealing. The build rockets some 5 and 6 feet long, with motors, directional gear and parachutes to guide them safely back to Bend. It is complicated. The rockets are painted with metallic paint, tattooed with decals of any sort, and I think they lose a few to the elements and distance. Blowing shit up.... I guess its one way to pass the time. Me? I like to go to the dump and break glass.

Friday, May 28, 2004


We are making a back yard. We (he) pulled out a huge hedge, twenty feet high by thirty feet long, and now it is laying in the neighbor's backyard. It was mostly his hedge anyway, turns out. Redrawing the property lines, we discovered that the old fence gives us probably ten feet we shouldn't have but are happy to take. The fence has been there since dirt, since God, and that counts for something. Even in the backyard neighbor's mind. So, we tore out the hedge, pulled out the stumps, and are debating how to dispose of the schoolbus sized load of shit that resulted from my good idea: hey, honey... wouldn't it be nice to have a little more light and room? So, the wake of my gardening, a neighborhood manifest destiny: we'll take it all-- one yard at a time.

So, we (I) raked it smooth and seeded it. And he doesn't believe it will grow. I think mostly because of bad behavior in his/our former lives, he thinks the seeds won't take, thinks the laws of nature/physics will be suspended to maintain karmic justice. I just tell him water water water. Karma be damned. But Portland is self-watering. No need to worry. It just pours.

Monday, May 24, 2004

changing my name

Bureaucracy. Social Security lives to feed itself -- has nothing to do with the well- being of those it claims to serve.

Here's how it went. I got married, as you all know, and wanted to change my name. I've had the old one a long time, and I figure leaving it all behind means leaving all my names, pseudonyms and aliases as well. Marriage seems so legitimate, but in Portland Oregon, in the spring of 2004, it isn't that simple. I've worked around bureaucracies most of my adult life, and I know some things, like: bring a book and plan to spend the day. I know: bring I.D. get there early and grab a number. I know: sit alone and don't make eye contact. I know: If you appear to be in a hurry, the federal gods know it like dogs know fear and the whole process become as snarled as a 100 foot extension cord. I swear I walked in as zen as Ashland. Even the security guard smiled at me. I showed my ID, I took a number. I was first in line, for chrissake. FIRST. My number was 37, but I was first. I sat, I waited, my number was called. And I think where I went wrong was where I usually go wrong. Arrogance. I thought I had it wired. And I don't know why I feel compelled to relay this information to the cosmos of blog-world, but here goes.

Changing My Name. A play in four acts.


the guy at the bullet proof window says: Do you have your old social security card?
I say: No. (oversight #1)
Do you have ID with your old name on it?
Yes (I yank out my Driver's license)
Okay, fine. Why are you changing your name?
I got married.
Oh, congratulations.
Smile, nod.
Do you have your marriage certificate?
Yes I do. (arrogance: you bet I do, buddy. Do you think I'd come all this way without it? I am so ready for this....)
Hmmm. Let's see. No, I'm sorry. This won't work.
This document. It isn't valid as identification.
This was issued between the dates of April 20 and May whatever.
You see, this license was issued duing the time gay marriages were being performed and so it isn't valid.
Huh? But I'm not gay.
Yes. Than doesn't matter.
Matters to me motherfucker. (I didn't really say that last thing.) Okay. (I take a breath, regain some of the zen composure I walked in with.) Okay, I'm confused. (That's what enlightened people say instead of "bullshit.")
He says: Yes. I'm sorry. Do you have other ID?
Other than my driver's license?
Yes. It has to be something with your new name on it.
But... (I struggle here) I am here to CHANGE my name. I don't have anything with my new name on it because MY NAME HAS NOT BEEN CHANGED. (you fucking idiot.... as composure slips between my fingers, off my lap and pools on the floor next to me.) Tell me what I need to do.
You need to get something with your new name on it.
(No shit.)
Like a health insurance card or your driver's license.
If you won't change it, why would DMV?
Sometimes they do.
Just sometimes? (I'm picking a fight. I'm prone to this.)
He goes on to cover his ass by saying he can't promise anything, like THAT matters.
I leave.


I go to DMV and the guy gives me a new license with very little trouble. The picture is shitty, but that's nothing new. I surrender my old license like a lost battle, and I ask him about the difference between Federal and state law and the marriage certificate. He tells me the governor is his boss and all he has to do is look at the certificate and see that an M and F box are checked. Not two of the same one. See?


My husband comes home from work. "Look honey, your name is on the new insurance card!!!" Yippee. I'm covered. I have two pieces of ID with my new name on it.


Back to SS office. This time I'm more confident than ever. (slow learner) I have my original SS card and 2 (count 'em) pieces of ID, fresh off the printer. I'm not first in line, but that's okay. This will be a breeze.

Do you have your original SS card?
Yes. Yes I do. Right here.
Okay. You know that isn't useable as identification.
Oh, God. (my resolve dissipates.)
Do you have any identification with your new name?
Yes. I do. (I perk up)
Okay, fine. Now, I need something wiht your old name on it.
This is very bad. I've surrendered the old license. Have nothing else. I should have known better than to give it up. Never surrender. Who said that? I point feebly to the SS card.
She shakes her head.
I consider my options and tell her: I had these things in my old name, really, just last week, but the guy sitting in that chair told me to get them in my new name.
I'm sorry, I guess he wasn't thinking.
(ya think?)
Do you have the marriage certificate?
(Now, I'm smart enough not to go down that road again.) No, I tell her. It was issued during the April 20 dates.
She nods like that makes perfect sense.
I don't know what to do, I tell her.
Did you graduate from High school? Do you have a diploma?
Oh, shit yeah. I've graduated from so many fucking things you wouldn't even believe how smart I am.
Get that. She says.

And so I did. I drove home, grabbed all of my various degrees and marched back into that Social Security office like a terrorist.

Okay. so my name is changed, but I am not.

Saturday, May 22, 2004


We just put in a new back lawn. I've done it before and it brings back some memories for me of the old days. The strangest things will give rise to the ghosts, so many, so varied. It is during gardening events that I recall the aborted attempts of my early days. I mostly remember trying to blame grass seed for not growing when truth was that I didn't water it. My sweetie, my husband of three weeks, asked if I knew what I was doing (as I was spreading the seed). Sure. I always know what I'm doing. I've done it wrong so many times that by sheer process of elimination I get it right from time to time. What I know about grass seed is this: it grows if you water it. Now, if you plant grass seed in July, water it for three days running, then you decide its a good idea to shoot heroin and drink whiskey for three days and don't see the light of day and then, on the third day of 105 weather, you peek your head out the door and little brown whiskers are covering your lawn, it ain't the seed.

Thursday, May 20, 2004


There are so many. Once last winter, three ghosts showed up in the same room with me and it was too much. I remember waking up with all of them, but have no memory of laying down with any of them at all. Anyway, one of them just died. One of my ghosts. I'll dedicate a poem here for him:

Ruch (for Richard)

It's a church now
the whole thing
the whole town
even the bar
where we used to sleep on pool tables with strangers

a church.

The outside wall is still different
where Richard Bohannon tried to drive his truck through it
before he lost his license
and his mind
The wood is newer in that one spot
and you can tell if you know what to look for
but I don't think they do
the Christians

They serve coffee
and I suppose it's strong enough
in its own way
but we were stronger
it took alot of faith to be us
And every night was New Year's Eve
every morning cluttered with sacred resolutions
broken by noon

And we were all saved
by a grace I am only beginning to understand
and God was always there
in Ruch.

Friday, May 14, 2004

cheesy yard art and dali lama(s)

My husband brought home some more cheesy yard art. This one is a six foot tall windmill, metal, john deere green and yellow. It was in about a thousand pieces and it took him all evening and the entire slang dictionary to complete. The really pathetic thing is that I've always liked them. Always, in fact, wanted one. I am white trash. I give up. Pink flamingos and now a windmill. I don't think its a windmill, actually. It isn't like the Don Quixote ones with crossed arms and tulips. Its more industrial, with a pinwheel and a tail on top. LIke a shooting star only not. The flamingos are still in the yard. It was my bold idea to place them there and wait for them to walk off in the drunken night. But maybe drunks have changed. Maybe their taste in stealable, or moveable objects, has changed. I know when I was drunk, I stole anything that wasn't nailed down. One time I robbed Joyce Martin's house drunk on Yukon Jack. I didn't know it was Joyce's house. I'd never liked her that much, but wouldn't have robbed her on purpose. But there I was, robbing this house and the phone rang. I answered it. This is not usually done during robberies in case you didn't know. I answered the phone and identified myself. "what are you doing there?" she asked. A fair question. I told her, in my Yukon blur, that I was robbing her, but I justified my actions by assuring her I didn't know it was her place and I promised to put everything back. And I did, everything but a brass rooster. I don't know why. It seemed so valuable. Like the flamingos. I'd steal them in a minute.

There is a place I go, a place of like minded people sitting around talking about their commom malady, and it seems to me that wherever I end up (new town), there is a lama among them. I do not aspire to the position. Rather am content to sit at their feet and soak up the off-handed wisdom. Where I used to be, the lama's name was Don. Then Don died and Jack showed up. Simple men, utterly unaware of their lama-hood. They are usually men although I'm not certain this is a requirement. This one's name is Martin. He's a monk. A storyteller. He said, "If I was God, I'd like us.I'd want to sit with us." He didn't say, "I think God likes us." Big difference. He wasn't speaking for God as so many do. -- It was my husband's first anniversary last night, and Martin gave us a loaf of homemade raisin bread. Made by the monks. It is heavy, a good five pounds. I'm sure it is wonderful, although I don't eat carbs and I think any lama worth his salt would know that. But then again it wasn't my birthday. In fact it had nothing to do with me. At any rate, after the meeting Martin said, "come with me." So I followed him out to his car. Now, most of the time at these meetings, you wouldn't just do that. If some guy said "come with me" a respectable married lady like myself would nicely say "fuck off buddy" but I just followed the lama out there like a puppy.

It is good to begin to know faces and names, to be one of many. I am less a stranger in a strange land every day.

Friday, May 07, 2004


Married now. Yippie. I wore the little blue dress with sequined flip-flops, hair up. He wore Carhartts and denim. Its a little intimidating, and terribly inconvenient to sign things. My name is different, and yet it has not changed bureaucratically. What name do I sign? But it is an amazing thing to have created this marriage, this relationship, this thing that I was so sure was running off the tracks for so many years.

We fish.

So, there I was, in the parking lot at Freddy's, and this car was parked nearby. If you live in portland and are reading this, I'm sure you've seen the car: Extremo the Clown. Looks to have been around for a good long time. I'll try to describe it. It may be complete... it may be a work in progress. It looks heavy is all I can say. No, I can say more, I'm sure of it. It is a collage of old toys: dolls heads, I can't remember what all.... fenders coated with small things, pasted here and there, all appearing very secure and permanent. Atop it all is a big, really very big, hindu sort of head staring backward into traffic as though blessing or condemning following vehicles. Actually, it comes to me now that it is alot like one of those things they call arts and crafts, those pieces they send home from vacation bible school, piles of gold spray painted macaroni elbows and pinwheels and letters. It is gold. Or was gold. Its kind of gold mud now. I don't think it would fare too well in a carwash. But when the guy came out of the store to get in the car, he was just a regular, beer-bellied oregonian until he turned around. He wore a red nose and smiled at me. On the side of the car a ragged piece of fabric hung from the passenger door:

Extremo for president. I'm all for it.

I remember one time when my son was staying with his father, he made a plate of gold spray painted spaghetti. As I pulled up in my 73 station wagon to rescue him, he ran out to show me his artwork. The woman my ex was living with dashed out of the house and reminded him that he had promised it to her.

Now I know how hard it is to be a step parent. Or I am beginning to see. I let her have the macaroni then, and would again.